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State rules out closure of schools as virus cases rise

By Irene Githinji
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Standard Eight pupils at Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi sit assessment exams on Wednesday. Photo/PD/John Ochieng
In summary
    • Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi has confirmed that there are cases of teachers testing positive for coronavirus. She says the ministry is in the process of collating data to get the actual number.

The government yesterday ruled out mass closure of schools in the wake of rising Covid-19 infections in learning institutions, saying any emerging cases will be dealt with on their own merits.

Education Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Zack Kinuthia said there is no cause for alarm and that the government will deal with any school, county, student, teacher or any other staff member who may be infected on individual basis.

“Schools will not be closed based on the cases in Mombasa. Corona cases will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

If a school is found to be a threat we close the school or student is isolated and learning will continue,” said Kinuthia.

 “It would be a problem if all schools reported cases but as the situation stands now, schools will not be closed, however,  ministry will keep observing the trends very closely,” he added.

The CAS spoke in the wake of the closure of two schools in Mombasa after students and staff contracted the disease, raising fears of mass infections among learners.

The affected schools are  Star of the Sea and Tononoka Boys, which were both closed for two weeks following the infections which were detected on Monday.

Reports indicated that some members of staff in the schools took private Covid-19 tests after showing symptoms and results turned positive.

“The county healthy emergency committee arrived at the decision to close the schools for two weeks, to curb spread of the virus and to facilitate fumigation after tests carried on both teachers and students who had developed breathing complications, came back positive,” said Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo.

Yesterday, Kinuthia assured that schools which had not reported any cases had no reason to close and will continue with normal learning while strictly observing the Ministry of Education and Health guidelines.

However, the cases reported in Mombasa form the basis for heightened monitoring trends of the disease not only in the Coastal towns but also across the country, he said.

With the situation at hand, the rest of the classes Grades One to Three and Form One to Three may have an extended stay at home before a decision to recall them can be made, he stated.

Already, the ministry officials have been dispatched across the country to monitor the situation since Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four learners resumed classes.

“We have personnel out there closely monitoring the situation and cases will be dealt with, with the seriousness they deserves.

We are on high alert and the government is in full control of the situation… we will deal with that matter as it comes,” the official said.

Restructing progress 

The CAS also assured the country that the move to reopen schools was well researched and it was agreed on after many days of consultations amid push and pull until the ministry was informed from the point of health that it was safe to reopen.

“This decision was not rushed. We had six months of deliberations. What we are seeing are signs that can be managed, they are bottlenecks, which are common in any organisational restructuring progress,” he explained.

He urged parents to remain calm, saying despite the few challenges reported, the government is well on course and in absolute control to ensure that all children are safe.

Before reopening, he said the first condition was to ensure that every learning institution was near a health facility, which were subsequently inspected and linked to schools.

“All our children in Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four are assured by government that it will be possible to deal with cases as they arise.

When you hear that there are cases where some children have been infected, definitely it arouses fear among parents.

However,  we are isolating learners when they get infected by all kinds of diseases even common cold,” he said.

There are no plans for mass testing of learners and the school community, the CAS said, adding  that the exercise would be expensive.

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